x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

We did not see this coming, says Baniyas official

Several club officials around the UAE Football League said the move to revoke the league's licence was completely unexpected.

Officials say they are sure the FA's decision has been done with their interests at heart.
Officials say they are sure the FA's decision has been done with their interests at heart.

Several club officials around the UAE Football League said the move to revoke the league's licence and turn control over to the Football Association was completely unexpected.

"This has all come as a big surprise," said Baniyas spokesman Musaad Al Harthi, whose club finished second in the league last season.

"We knew there were some problems that existed between the UFL and the FA, but we did not see this coming and nobody at this point can say for sure what will happen in the future."

He and others expressed hope that the change would eventually benefit football in the UAE.

"We, as a club, hope this is going to be good for football as a whole in this country, even if we don't really know what is going on for certain at the moment," he said.

"Nobody at Baniyas knew this was going to happen today [Monday].

"What I can say is that we are sure that the football authorities want what is best for the game in the UAE."

Though most were reluctant to speak on the record, other club officials expressed similar feelings.

"The UFL has been dissolved, but we are still a professional league. It is not that we are going back to the days of amateur football," one club official said. "We are not really worried because we know that the Football Association will make the right decisions and continue on this path of professionalism."

A meeting of Pro League club officials, originally scheduled yesterday to discuss league issues, was cancelled.

"We have some concerns because of the general assembly being cancelled. A decision on the foreign quota was expected to be made there," an official said.

One club official said the recent events represented a sudden and dramatic escalation of "the usual league versus FA tit for tat".

A league employee said contracts awarded to coaches and players were made with their clubs, not the league, and should be unaffected by the demise of the UFL. One player, the Brazilian striker Grafite, was announced as a prominent Ahli acquisition on the very day the UFL officially went out of existence.

Noting that the professional leagues in Qatar and Saudi Arabia have continued to operate under the authority of their national FAs, the official suggested that the UAE model, for the three-year history of the UFL, was similar to those in Europe and other leading football countries.

"We have been the envy of leagues in the region," he said. "But perhaps it was a step too far for this part of the world."

 

ncameron@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Ahmed Rizvi and Paul Oberjuerge